Participation in the Witness Protection Programme is voluntary upon the signing of Memorandum of Understanding.
Witnesses protection is one of the rights enshrined in the Constitution. Witnesses are cornerstones of any successful criminal justice system. Prosecutors / Investigators are obliged to ensure testimony by threatened or intimidated witnesses. It therefore becomes necessary to establish and maintain a Witness Protection Programme to enhance access to justice and promotion of rule of law. The successful operation of this program is widely recognized as providing a unique and valuable tool in the government’s battle against major criminal conspirators and organized crime.
Who can apply for protection?
- the witness; or
- a person related to the witness
- a law enforcement agency/officer
- a public prosecutor; or
- a legal representative or any other intermediary.
Criteria for admission
Witness protection Programme is the last resort. It covers the threats which cannot be addressed by other protection measures. The following factors will be considered before a witness is included in the Witness Protection Programme
- The seriousness of the offence to which any relevant evidence or the statements relates;
- The nature and importance of any relevant evidence or statement;
- The nature of the perceived danger to the witness;
- Whether there are other viable alternative methods of protecting the witness;
- The public interest in the prosecution of the case;
- Ability of the person to adopt to the programme and its measures; and
- Any other matter the Director considers relevant.
Protective action depends on the level of threat. Some of the actions taken to protect witnesses include;
- Redaction of identifying information from the witness statement
- Use of pseudonyms
- Protecting the identity of the witness g. voice distortion
- Provision of separate waiting room during court appearances,
- In camera/closed court sessions and
- Use of concealing witness box.
- Limiting face to face interaction with the accused.
- Limiting witness exposure to public and media
- Physical and armed protection
- Use of video link
- Change of identity
Discharge from the witness protection programme
The protection will be immediately terminated and the witness will be required to leave the programme in the event of the following;
- Prosecutor informing the Director of the Witness Protection Agency that the witness’s evidence was untruthful or unreliable or by the court trying the case making such a finding;
- The Prosecuting Authority decides not to institute or discontinues the criminal proceedings in respect of which the witness was admitted to the programme;
- The witness is not required to give evidence;
- In the opinion of the Investigating or Prosecuting Authority the witness is no longer at risk;
- In the opinion of the Director the witness is able to make alternative arrangements for his /her safety without remaining on the programme;
- The witness when applying for protection willfully furnished false or misleading information, particulars or makes a statement which is false or misleading in any material respect or willfully failed to disclose any material relevant to his / her application.
- The witness is arrested for any criminal offence;
- The witness absconds from the programme.